The ‘Grote Markt’ (Big Market) is the main square and natural city centre of Groningen. It was one of the most beautiful squares in the Netherlands, but at the end of World War II during the liberation of the town a lot of the surrounding historical buildings were destroyed.
To be honest nowadays it is quite a sorry sight. The buildings don’t fit to each other; next to the impressive old Martinitoren are meaningless modern buildings with shops and commercial offices (including the Tourist Information Centre), one side of the square does have its original historical buildings (most of them are restaurants and pubs) and on the west side is the town hall, a neo classical building from 1810.
The ‘Grote Markt’ is still an important market, where vendors have their market stalls and sell their goods four days a week: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. People like these markets and you will see a lot of ‘Stadjers’ (that is how inhabitants of Groningen call themselves) buying food, flowers, clothing and much more.
The 'Martinikerkhof' is situated just behind the 'Martinikerk'. ‘Kerkhof’ means graveyard and indeed this was the place were the inhabitants of Groningen buried their deceased’s. It was used as graveyard till 1837. In the 20th century it was a car park, but nowadays a nice small peaceful city park, just a stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Close to the Martinitoren is the war memorial of the city; ‘Sint Joris met de Draak. The park is surrounded by some nice old buildings like the House of Province and the Prinsenhof, which was the residence of the Frisian Stadtholders in the middle ages.
Next to the Prinsenhof is the Gardepoort. This gate is the oldest (from 1639) and one of the few remaining gates of the city and leaded the guards to the former stables.
I've driven a bit more to the south by now. We're in Schaphalsterzijl, and here you can see some lovely landscape. I love the old 'dyke' with the sheep on it, and the winding road next to it.
Some sailing boats at the lock of Schaphalsterzijl. I love seeing these little spots in the Province of Groningen. The landscape is quite bare at times, but there are lots of small picturesque places to be found, like this one.
I can't say that this is my favourite part of the province, but it is certainly different. The landscape of the polders is so bare. This little house behind the dyke looks so lonely, so desolate. The views are amazing though, you can't get a flatter landscape than this, and you the view is endless..... hahaha, except for this dyke of course which is blocking the view ;-) The best way I can describe it is 'desolate'.... nothing there, only an empty landscape.
Somewhere in nowhere.... Westernieland. The picture has nothing to do with the village though, but with the landscape. Here you can see a beautiful landscape, old sea dykes going through the countryside, with the road on top of the dyke, which give you a nice view over the surrounding pasture.
Noordpolderzijl is the starting point for mudwalkers ('wadlopers' in Dutch) to Schiermonnikoog. On low tide you can walk all the way to this island. I've been 'mudwalking' once and it a fantastic experience. I didn't walk all the way to Schiermonnikoog though, but explored part of the 'wad'. The start of the walk is very muddy, and you sink into it almost up to your knees at points. But if you keep up the speed of walking you won't think in so deep. But after those first meters, you will get onto the sand. These are banks of sand in the sea, and it's almost like walking on the beach. Sometimes you have to wade through water, haha, I even had to swim one time, to get to another bank of sand. But it is fantastic to do! You can see seals, birds, and the view... amazing! I loved it! The only bad part is that you have to go back through those meters of mud to get back to the coast ;-)
Never attempt to go 'mudwalking' on your own. The tides come in very quickly, and only an experienced guide knows about the circumstances in this area. If you want to go mudwalking you have to make reservations well in advance. And don't go to early in the season, hahaha, because the water is still bitter cold at that time.
The "Waddenzee" at Noordpolderzijl.
Noordpolderzijl owes its name to a lock dating back to 1811. Zijl is another word for lock. This lock is a connection between the inland waterway of the "Noordpolder' (Northern polder) and the sea (Waddenzee).
Noorpolderzijl has picturesque fishing harbour. And when you are here on the right time, you can buy freshly cought shrimps from the fisherman of Usquert.
Last but not least I want to show you a picture of the city of Groningen. This is an absolute 'must see', it is such a beautiful city. On the picture you can see the Martini tower in the heart of the city. You can read all about Groningen and see many pictures of this beautiful city on my Groningen page :
I am getting close to the sea in the area of 'Usquert'. This used to be a very wealthy part of the country, and even the largest number of millionaires of the country used to live here. And that is still visable in the farmhouses in this region. This house still looks like a typical farm, but some houses don't even look like farms anymore, but like estates. The farmers weren't farmers themselves anymore, but more large landowners. They had several farms with labourers working for them.
On this trip I am going to the north west of the province. This windmill is located in the village of Zeerijp, called "de Leeuw" (= lion). The windmill is on the eastside of the village and was build in 1865. Previous to that there was a windmill on this spot from which was build in 1662.
But of course you can be lazy as well and explore the province by car. Hahaha, and that's exactly what I did after my bike and canoe trip. I was getting sore muscles, and sitting lazy in the car for a day was a welcoming change :-)
A great advantage for exploring parts of the province in canoe is that you see everything in a different perspective and that you can see things that you normally wouldn't spot so easily. Like this coot for instance sitting on its nest. There are a lot of coots in the canals and you can approach them quite easily with a canoe. Only when you get too close they will try and hide from you.
Besides the coot there are plenty of other birds you can see in Groningen.
One thing I like a lot about Appingedam these days is that every effort has been taken to restore the historic centre of Appingedam to its full glory. I can't remember it looked as good when I went to school here. But now, many years later, the city centre looks very picturesque, specially from the canals! Dozens of houses have been thoroughly restored and streets and their surroundings have been suitably adjusted. Almost one kilometre (0,6 mile) of the old quay wall has been restored in its original state.
You can read about this trip, and more about the history of Appingedam on my "Appingedam page"
I've been to Appingedam so many times in my life, hahaha, on not only by canoe. It was only 10 kilometers away from where I used to live, and it is the place where I went to school as a teenager. Appingedam is a nice little town, famous for its "hanging kitchens" (see picture).
The old medieval structure of the town and many old houses or warehouses have remained. When the importance as a sea port receded, many warehouses were converted to residences. Silent withnesses of this are the "hanging kitchens" above the "Damsterdiep" which originated owing to a lack of space since the buildings were, at the front, directly on the street and, at the back, directly on the water.